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San Francisco will spend $17 million in the coming years on pedestrian safety projects in spots identified as the most dangerous areas of the city for those on foot, Mayor Ed Lee announced today.

WalkFirst, a city initiative that combines collision data analysis with public outreach, identified 170 locations around San Francisco where improvements will be made over the next five years, Lee said.

Those areas, which make up 6 percent of the city’s roadway network, are responsible for 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities and injuries, according to the mayor.

There were 21 pedestrian deaths in San Francisco in 2013 and there have already been several in the new year.

“We’re tired of saying ‘We’re sorry,’” Lee said.

Among the projects identified by WalkFirst are the creation of new sidewalk bulbouts and traffic light timing changes along Sutter Street, and the installation of a new traffic light at Sunset Boulevard and Yorba Street, where a 78-year-old man was struck and killed in a crosswalk last month, Lee said.

He said the projects will be accompanied by a pedestrian awareness campaign, “Be Nice Look Twice,” as well as increased enforcement by San Francisco police of traffic laws.

“I’m asking my officers to not be so nice,” Lee said. “That enforcement should have effects on people’s behavior.”

Police Chief Greg Suhr noted that there have been more pedestrian deaths than homicides in San Francisco so far in 2014.
“It’s a problem,” Suhr said.

Nicole Schneider, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco, called WalkFirst “a sea change” in the city’s approach to pedestrian safety.

She said, “WalkFirst is a way for us to get to Vision Zero,” the city’s goal of eliminating all traffic deaths in San Francisco by 2024.

The mayor and other city officials asked for the public’s help in passing a transportation bond measure proposed for the November ballot that Lee said would provide $50 million in funding for pedestrian improvements.

More information about WalkFirst can be found at http://walkfirst.sfplanning.org.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • Jesse

    Maybe they can spend some of this money to teach pedestrians to look both ways before crossing the street. It’s easy to blame the drivers, and in many cases it’s entirely their fault, but the pedestrians in this city pay little to no attention when crossing the street. I see it every single day, pedestrians stepping out into a crosswalk and only looking for cars once they are halfway across.

  • sforick

    I’m a driver who strongly supports pedestrian safety. I also want our money spent wisely. Part of the “toolbox” is to add more countdown pedestrian signals. But a recent study shows pedestrians struck by cars at crossings increased by 26 per cent after the countdown timers were introduced. It also shows a 51 per cent increase in serious injuries and fatalities:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/10/04/toronto_countdown_crosswalks_have_led_to_increase_in_pedestrian_collisions_study_finds.html

    My experience on the streets of SF shows that many pedestrians start crossing on the red hand because they see there is still time before the light changes. This is illegal but is encouraged by the countdown signal. Drivers also use the countdown to judge the signal change and often hurry up to make it, unsafely. These behaviors also tie up traffic unnecessarily and cause more risk because the time after the red hand and countdown start is designed for pedestrians to clear the intersection and legal right turns to be made by motorists.

    • Josh Berkus

      I don’t know that the cited study shows anything; the article admits that 3 sets of researchers looked at the same stats and came away with different conclusions. Maybe I’m not a typical driver, but personally I use the countdown to know if I should start slowing down for a stop. However, I do agree that the City shouldn’t just assume that countdown signals will improve things without evidence.

  • Casual_Economy

    Personally, a pedestrian looking at a smart phone while using a cross walk is more dangerous than a pedestrian paying attention to the road and jaywalking. I know it’s not unlawful to look at your phone while crossing the street, but I think that’s a component of some of these increased pedestrian accidents.

  • saimin

    I have 2 simple suggestions that are proven to greatly improve pedestrian safety.
    1. No right turns at red lights. Wait for a green light before turning right.
    2. No green left turn arrows at the same time that pedestrians have green lights for any of the crosswalks that the car would cross. Wait until the pedestrians have a red light before allowing left turns.

    Too many car drivers are incapable of performing these maneuvers safely with the current system. Laws must cater to the safest common denominator.

    • mike

      Agreed (as driver and walker in this town)

      Also, jaywalking has gotten ridiculous – esp. people that can’/won’t look both ways and/or have bad speed perception of oncoming traffic…

  • Josh Berkus

    So … how about a traffic light and protected crossing signal at the 280 on-ramp and Glen Park BART station entrance? That’s a deathtrap for pedestrians and cars alike.